Ajala Osagie is a 27-year-old native of South Jersey, busy completing her residency in Emergeny Medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. She is a new resident of Ditmas Park, in an apartment on the corner of East 18th street and Dorchester. Due to her hectic schedule, Osagie does not often have time to cook, but when she does, she enjoys cooking sweet potatoes, chicken, and broccoli, a meal she made on a recent summer night. “It’s quick, easy to make, fulfilling, and I need some type of protein in my meals,” she said. “I don’t have time to learn how to cook because of my schedule.”
Although Osagie was born in the states, she is Nigerian by background and loves to add meat to her meals. “In West African culture, a lot of our meals have meat in them; if a meal doesn’t have meat in it, it doesn’t feel complete to me,” she said. Nigerian culture and tradition calls for women to do the cooking, but her mother resisted, Osagie said, and wanted her and her sisters to develop career skills rather than spending a lot of time in the kitchen. “I had a unique upbringing,” she said with a smile. “My mother was also very territorial when it came to cooking in the kitchen and oftentimes didn’t want my sisters and I to learn her cooking secrets.”
Osagie stands at 5”7 and her head is dressed with golden brown dreadlocks that match the complexion of her skin. As she preps to cook her meal, she’s casually dressed down in a pink shirt, and blue jean shorts to bear the heat of her kitchen on this warm summer day. Osagie is meticulous with her cooking. Her hand movements appear confident but careful as she slowly steams the broccoli on the oven for about 30 minutes. She concentrates as she carefully flavors the sweet potatoes with just enough brown sugar, before she puts in the oven at 350 degrees. She seasons her drumsticks with black pepper and All Purpose Seasoning and deep-fries the chicken until it’s tender and crisp to her liking. The meal prep smells absolutely delicious.
As she was cooking her sweet potato and fried chicken, she talked about two of her favorite meals, one of which is Ogbono Soup, a staple in her culture and one of her favorite meals to cook and eat. It is is a popular Nigerian soup made with Ogbono seeds. Ogbono soup has a mucilaginous texture, similar to okra soup. It is often cooked with vegetables, and sometimes combined with melon(egusi) seeds. It is optional to cook with or without vegetables and is often consumed with fufu and soup, another popular staple in West African culture. Osagie says eating Ogbono Soup makes her nostalgic every time she eats it. “It was one of my favorite dishes that I loved growing up,” she said. “I loved spending time in the kitchen and watching my mom make it,” she said. “Whenever I eat it, it gives me memories of bonding and spending time with my mother in the kitchen.”
Her other favorite dish is Roti and ChickenStew, a South African dish that is similar to common Indian foods. When eating the dish, Roti bread (a circular bread that’s similar in texture to Pita Bread), is dipped in a brown stew filled with chicken and seasoned Indian Curry spices. Osagie says the stew is not spicy, but is still delectable. As she finishes her meal, her dinner plate is filled with tender smelling sweet potatoes, fresh steamed green broccoli, and chicken that is seasoned and fried to a crisp, a tasty summer meal.